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Celebrating Day of the Dead to Bring Life to Mexico’s Tourism

MSL, New York / MEXICO / 2019

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As the sixth most visited country in the world by international tourists, the Mexican economy is very tied to travel; 40MM international tourists visit each year. Tourism employs 1 out of 9 Mexican citizens and accounts for 9% of Mexico’s GDP. With a 10 percent annual increase in visitors, tourism had become the country's second largest industry.

But 2018 wasn't an easy year for Mexico. A misleading narrative, rooted in the media and political environment in the U.S., cast a dark shadow on Mexico, spreading fear among potential tourists and threatening It’s economic interests.

To both promote the country’s rich tourism offerings and an encourage audiences to see through the biased narrative, the Mexico Tourism Board (MTB) sought to raise awareness around the Day of the Dead, an annual celebration of life in Mexico that highlights a joyous tradition that has evolved over thousands of years.


With increased traveler concern about crime/violence, we asked ourselves if it was the right time to leverage a cultural tradition about death. The answer: YES. Interestingly, the Day of the Dead holiday season is actually a celebration of life/homecoming/family, the timeless connection that Mexicans have with their ancestors and how they shape one's place in the world. Day of the Dead is emblematic of Mexico–an experience that's emotional/thrilling/colorful/human and unexpected for many visitors. It's as misunderstood as Mexico itself.

With rancor/derision dominating headlines, Mexico’s Day of the Dead celebrates a different set of human values: respect/community and the shared human longing for warmth of family, departed loved ones and home.

If there was ever a time to tackle stereotypes, it was now. And what better way to do it than to spotlight the surprising truth to this rich cultural celebration to question what was being said about Mexico overall.


Based on the insight that people are surprised to learn that the Day of the Dead celebration is about life, the Mexico Tourism Board turned the local holiday into a global event and inspired millions to visit.

Our messaging ran counter to the media narrative--Mexico is a colorful/magical destination w/warmhearted people who share a rich culture and value family relationships.

To reach potential tourists including families with new tourism products, we partnered w/Disney·Pixar around the 2017 film Coco. Together w/Disney and tour operators, we shaped itineraries for tourists to experience colorful locations/traditions that inspired the film.

We took the celebration on a "world tour" to New York/Chicago/Toronto/Paris/Berlin, organized an international press trip and conducted exhaustive media outreach in 13 priority markets: US/Canada/Brazil/Argentina/Colombia/UK/Spain/Germany/Italy/France/South Korea/Japan/China.

Working w/media+influencers, we turned the spectacular parade in Mexico City into a centerpiece reason for visiting Mexico and extended the experience to festivities across different Mexican states.


Our program included:

STRATEGIC PARTNERSHIP w/DISNEY-PIXAR and tour operators in Mexico to create four tourism routes for visitors to experience the iconic destinations that inspired the film Coco.

WORLD TOUR brought the music/costumes/rituals/color of the celebration to Moscow for the World Cup, followed by stops in New York, Chicago, Toronto, Paris and Berlin to generate excitement/drive visitation in months leading up to the event.

INTERNATIONAL MEDIA/INFLUENCER ACTIVATION to participate in the Mexico City parade and other celebrations across the country. Earned media and social posts created first-hand accounts of the Day of the Dead celebrations.

LOCAL LANGUAGE CONTENT used for storytelling in media/social media across 13 markets.

Most of the activity occurred in the second half of 2018, leading up to the holiday at the start of November.

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2018, MEXICO

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